Speaking in an interview with FIFA.com, the Spanish World Cup winner lavished praise on his club colleague, remarking: "A player like him only comes around once every 50 years. The only reason the rest of us have any chance of winning this year is because the World Cup didn’t turn out too well for Argentina, because if it had, then it [the FIFA Ballon d’Or] would be no contest.
"In my view, Leo is now even better than [Diego] Maradona was. He’s going to be at the very top for many years to come, there’s nobody like him."
The Ballon d'Or candidate however refused to be drawn into a discussion on the current form of Real Madrid, and indeed the conduct of coach Jose Mourinho, concluding: "Let me be clear. We will not go into a war of words. We raise our battles within the football pitch.
"There are two Mourinhos, the man and the coach. We have to take the positive side of this and use him to motivate us. We want to win by playing good football and he just wants to win any which way.
"Sometimes we Barcelona players need extra motivational factors to really perform, and Mourinho gives us one. The fact that they [Real Madrid] went looking for him, that they paid a release clause, that he used to work for Barcelona and knows us all and wants to get one over us. In that sense, Mourinho’s presence works in our favour."
The influential 30-year-old has been suffering from tendonitis for much of the season, but the recent rest afforded to him by coach Pep Guardiola appears to have paid dividends, as he was key to the Blaugrana’s 5-0 home victory over Sevilla on Saturday evening, and will travel to Denmark with the squad to face Copenhagen in the Champions League.
Coach Pep Guardiola replaced the playmaker in the second half of the weekend victory, but Xavi declared himself pleased with the way his body is recovering and that he could have perhaps played the entire ninety minutes.
He stated to journalists yesterday: “Before, the pain I had was unbearable, and now I feel a little discomfort. On Saturday I could have played for more minutes, I found myself feeling very well. I was almost 100%.
“We played a very complete match, with a much faster pace. We needed that game. It’s what we all want. We are at just as high a level as in previous years.”
Xavi also added his name to the list of players against the idea of hosting El Casico on a Monday evening, adding, “I’d rather play on a Saturday, and in any case, over the weekend, because to play it on a Monday I find soulless.”